Monday, May 29, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, occasional light shower, Wind SW 10-15 mph

Our extra day on Adak didn’t add any new birds to the list.

We still had 4 Hawfinch, a few Bramblings, and the Far Eastern Curlew.

At Landing Lights, several Ruddy Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers are hanging around.

Ruddy Turnstone (with Rock Sandpiper), Landing Lights Beach, May 29, 2017.

We left Adak at 1:00 pm, flew to Anchorage, then Seattle, then Chicago, and then Philadelphia. The amazing thing was at both Seattle and Chicago, the gate we arrived at was right next to the gate from which we were leaving! No hiking a mile down the concourse…

As we were landing at Philadelphia, the plane aborted at the last minute. That certainly woke us up! The plane that had landed ahead of us apparently did not get off of the runway fast enough. So we circled around and landed — still on time.

We got home about 1:30 pm.

Trip Summary

What a great trip!

81 species smashed our previous May high of 76.

We had two lifers — White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail.

In addition to those, we added Pomarine Jaeger and Tree Swallow to our personal Adak lists.

We had 7 semi-lifers:

  • Mongolian Plover – first breeding plumage
  • Common Greenshank – three together — all of our previous sightings were of singles.
  • Slaty-backed Gull – first adult plumage. All of our previous records were immatures.
  • Rustic Bunting – breeding plumage and photo. Our previous record was non-breeding, brief, no photos
  • Bramblings – although we have seen more than one Brambling at a time out here, we had never seen 100s.
  • Red-necked Stint – Our previous high was 2. The 62 we counted (verified by photos) is likely a new North American high.
  • Black-headed Gull – Three together.

This was a trip of “flocks” — being defined as three or more.

No sooner than we had arrived, than a flock of 30+ Bramblings were found. And they just increased from there.

We had a flock of Common Greenshanks, a flock of Black-headed Gulls, a flock of Hawfinches, and an unprecedented flock of 62 Red-necked Stints.

The Far Eastern Curlew (2 years in a row) was unexpected.

The best moments of the trip were the pair of breeding-plumaged Mongolian Plovers (I know, I know — Lesser Sand-Plovers!), both wagtails, and the Rustic Bunting.

Although not an Asian rarity, the Tree Swallow was an interesting record.

The other birders who were out there were all a delight to interact with. Over our two weeks, there was a combined total of 25 birders on the island and a few more arrived as we left! That may be a record, also.

We will be back in September…


Sunday, May 28, 2017

What? Sunday?

It was bound to happen.

Temp in the 40s overcast, light rain showers, Wind S 10-20 mph.

After 20 trips out to Adak, we finally had a flight cancelled. The same volcano that caused the cancellation of last week’s flight did ours in also.

The “good” news is that they have rescheduled it for tomorrow, so we hope to be home by Tuesday. We will see.

In the meantime, we got a little more birding in and will bird a little tomorrow morning.

Today, we added Arctic Loon to our trip list (before the cancellation) and the Black-headed Gull that was hanging out at Landing Lights was joined by two more!

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

Black-headed Gulls, Landing Lights Beach, May 28, 2017.

One of the Wood Sandpipers at the Marsh, has become very cooperative.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 28, 2017

This is very typical of this species out here. You can drive right up next to them — within ten feet or so — and they just look at you or calmly walk away, only occasionally flushing.

That’s all I have tonight. Between rescheduling flights, partial unpacking, and reorganizing our menus (good thing we bring extra!), I am pooped.

Next posting will be on Wednesday — we hope!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, Wind SE 10-25 mph.

We saw our second Wandering Tattler of the trip at Landing Lights Beach, and this one stayed long enough for a portrait.

Wandering Tattler, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

The 4 Hawfinches are still here, but fewer and fewer Bramblings remain. The Buffleheads have all but departed, only a few are still here.

The Far Eastern Curlew is still on Clam Lagoon, but the Bar-tailed Godwit has left and we could not find the stints or Dunlins today.

At Andrew Lake, another Common Loon was cooperative.

Common Loon, Andrew Lake, May 27, 2017.

We added Long-tailed Duck to the triplist, giving us 80!

We finally caught up with the Black-headed Gull at Landing Lights Beach. This time he didn’t disappear…

Black-headed Gull, Landing Lights Beach, May 27, 2017.

However, the big news out here is the gas station is offline. They say it won’t be fixed until Tuesday! Fortunately, we were able to scrounge up some gas to get us through tomorrow, but other birders coming in may have some problems. This has happened to us before, so we are not terribly surprised.

This will be our last post until Tuesday. We leave tomorrow at 6 pm Adak time, and arrive (hopefully!) home around 5 pm eastern on Monday.

What a fantastic trip!

Friday, May 26, 2017

They keep coming…

Temp in the 40s, partly cloudy, wind East 10-15 mph.

We can’t have a trip to Adak without at least one alcid photo.

Ancient Murrelet, Sweeper Cove, May 26, 2017.

No sooner had we made a couple of standard stops this morning than we get “a call from Jim” telling us he has a Far Eastern Curlew on the Clam Lagoon East Side Flats! As usual, we are as far away as possible, but Barb presses the pedal and we arrive on the seen in 23 minutes. Sure enough, our second Far Eastern Curlew in as many years — and our third overall.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.

Far Eastern Curlew, Clam Lagoon, May 26, 2017.


While Jim’s group went up to Lake Ronnie — and had a pair of Tufted Ducks — we were at Lake Shirley watching another male Tufted. We later found another pair on the Airport Ponds, making 5 still present.

The stint flock is now down to 45 Red-necked Stints and 3 Dunlin. Surprisingly, no other passing shorebirds — we assume there have been a few — joined in. Our experience out here shows that shorebird flocks attract other shorebirds. But, except for the Dunlins, no others were seen (and I took hundreds of photos of the flock each day and checked all of them carefully).

The lone Bar-tailed Goodwit remains.

We had nothing else unusual until after lunch when “a call from Jim” informed us they had a Tree Swallow at Contractors’ Camp Marsh! Although not an Asian vagrant, it is still a rarity on Adak — only a half-dozen records-or-so.

This time, we were only minutes away, but assumed the bird had simply been a fly-by.

Nope, it hung around, hunting over the main lake of the marsh. I waited and waited until finally it flew above the horizon and nearby where I could see it in the camera’s viewfinder and started snapping.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

Tree Swallow, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 26, 2017.

I’m still amazed that I was able to get those shots…

There are still 4 Hawfinches coming to the Thrush Feeder, but the number of Bramblings has declined.

Later in the afternoon, as we were descending the hill to Navfac Creek, we checked the gull flock on the beach and again, Barb saw a dark-backed gull. However, this time it stayed long enough for photos. It was an adult Slaty-backed Gull — our first adult of this species.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Navfac Creek Beach, May 26, 2017.

Our trip list is a whopping 79!

Two days to go.

PS: The make-up flight from Anchorage arrived today.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, wind WNW 15-25 mph.

The Common Sandpiper (or another one) that has been hanging around Sweeper Channel was there again this morning and actually didn’t fly off before we got there!

Common Sandpiper, Sweeper Channel, May 25, 2017.

At Contractors’ Camp Marsh, we finally caught up with a couple of friendly Wood Sandpipers.

Wood Sandpiper, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 25, 2017.

Overnight, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 62(!), but we lost 2 Dunlin, as there were only 7 this morning. As far as we can tell, this is a North American record for quantity of Red-necked Stints.

Red-necked Stints and Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

As we were leaving Shotgun Lake, the Peregrine Falcon that has been hanging around — but eluding us — made an appearance.

Peregrine Falcon, Shotgun Lake, May 25, 2017

On out second trip around Clam Lagoon this afternoon, as we just got to the Seawall, we got a call from Jim that they had 2(!) Lesser Sand-Plovers — or Mongolian Plovers, as I like to call them — on the Clam Lagoon Flats.

We raced around and, low-and-behold, there they were — up-close-and-personal — right along the edge of the lagoon about 30 yards from the roadside. We have seen them before on September trips — in non-breeding plumage — so this was an extra treat, seeing them in all their finery.

Lesser Sand-Plovers, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.

Lesser Sand-Plover, Clam Lagoon, May 25, 2017.


As we were driving back o town, we scoped a flock of gulls on Navfac Beach and saw what appeared to be a dark-backed Gull. We were too far to be sure, so I went down the road a bit and climbed the sand dune to get a closer look. Just before I crested the dune, they all took off, but then returned. I could not find a (or the) dark-backed gull, but as I was scanning the flock, a Black-headed Gull flew in and settled in behind all the big guys! I started walking up the dune to get a better angle, but I couldn’t relocate him. I assume he flew off as I was watching where I was stepping.

But wait, there’s more…

We had just finished eating dinner, when Jim called to say they had a White Wagtail at Landing Lights Beach. We raced up there, where they were standing on the dunes, watching as the bird took flight. However, we saw it and followed its flight path. It disappeared up the beach toward Nacfac Creek, so we raced up there and, as we stopped, I spotted the bird down on the creek where it flows onto the beach. The others quickly caught up and got to see it again, also.

White Wagtail, Navfac Creek Beach, May 25, 2017.

So after 20 trips to Adak, always wanting — but failing — to see a wagtail, we have now had two of each — white and yellow!

Our trip list is now 77! Our best ever, and there are still three days to go!

What’s gonna show up next?

PS: The flight to Adak today was cancelled due to volcanic ash erupting out of a volcano somewhere east of us. They plan a flight tomorrow. Lets hope the volcano doesn’t stop our Sunday ride home.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, West wind 20-30 mph.

Jim’s group found another (or the same) Common Sandpiper early this morning in Sweeper Channel. Of course, it flew off before I could get there…

The gull I mentioned yesterday is a “Vega” Herring Gull.

“Vega” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2014.

At Clam Lagoon, the Red-necked Stint flock grew to 50 overnight and the Dunlin number jumped to 9.

The Bar-tailed Godwit flock has dwindled down to just one lone soul.

Bar-tailed Godwit, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

The Aleutian Tern numbers have steadily increased since last week.

Aleutian Terns, Clam Lagoon, May 24, 2017.

There may be more than 50 Brambling still here, based on counts at feeders and flocks seen in the field. There are now 4 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder, May 24, 2017.

The fish-processing ship is still attracting Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and a few Fulmars.

No new species today, but the wind is supposed to stay west until tomorrow night, so let’s hope more shorebirds join the flock on Clam Lagoon.

Four days to go…

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Temp in the 40s, mostly cloudy, Wind SW 20-40 mph Occasional brief sprinkle, and even some hail!

We had nothing new in town or at Sweeper, so we headed north. We saw the Hawfinch and Bramblings at the Thrush Feeder. We got a call from Jim, informing us they had an Eye-browed Thrush at the Adak National Forest. Of course, it flew away before we arrived! That makes 4 Eye-browed Thrushes we have missed on this trip!

They also told us they had 2 Wood Sandpipers at the marsh.

We went up to Clam Lagoon, and scoped the flats. I found a large (30-40) flock of shorebirds out in the middle and I assumed they were Sanderlings. We drove up to the west observation point and I walked out onto the flats to have a look. Our previous experience with Sanderlings out here is when you find a nice-sized flock like this, you check it to see if anything else has joined them.

I don’t take my scope out on the flats, just my camera. I got close enough to take a bunch of pictures. With binos, I could see there were several Dunlin mixed in with them. See?

When I got back to the truck, I took a quick look to see what else I might have missed. Sure enough, I quickly picked out a Red-necked Stint in the first good photo i looked at.

We called Jim’s group and luckily, they were not far and joined us shortly. As they were getting ready to walk out, I looked at more photos and soon realized that there wasn’t just one Red-necked Stint, but ALL of them were!!!

There were no Sanderlings. These were all breeding-plumage stints.

The most Red-necked Stints we had ever seen out here at one time was two!

This was unbelievable.

Eventually, we counted 45 stints, 5 Dunlin, and 1 Red-necked Phalarope. The count was made from the photos.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Phalarope, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Red-necked Phalarope (5th bird from left) and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Dunlins and Red-necked Stints, Clam Lagoon, May 23, 2017.

Initially, the flock was around 30+, but we came back a few hours later and it had grown to the numbers cited above (45 RNST, 6 DUNL, and 1 RNPH).

There are records such as this from the Western Aleutians (Attu and Shemya), with as many as 50. But this is certainly a record for the Central Aleutians.

On the second trip around to look at the stints, another birding group showed up — Yvonne’s group — and they walked out with me to get nice looks at them also.

We continued around to the Seawall and then Lake Shirley. As I was scanning the ducks, I saw some gray shorebirds on the far shoreline. They were 3 Common Greenshanks.

3 Common Greenshanks, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Common Greenshank, Lake Shirley, May 23, 2017.

Again, Jim’s group caught up to us and saw the birds. We then decided to walk around to get closer views (as you can see from my photos, Lake Shirley is far across). However, as we rounded a bluff that hid our approach, they flew off. But as they did, another bird called from nearby. It was a Wood Sandpiper. We hadn’t even noticed it, being so caught up with the greenshanks.

There was still a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie, and Jim’s group had a Black-headed Gull fly by as they were scanning from Zeto Point.

On the way back along the Seawall, we had a flock of 6 Ruddy Turnstones.

Yesterday, I mentioned a “funny-looking” gull — all immature gulls are “funny-looking” to me! Well, the gull experts have weighed in to identify it as a Slaty-backed Gull.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

Slaty-backed Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 22, 2017.

We found another “funny-looking” gull today. I will post it when we figure it out.

Our trip list is 73, just 3 shy of our record. The winds are still from the southwest…

Monday, May 22, 2017

Temp in the 40s, rain, overcast, Wind WSW 15-30 mph.

One of the few days that we have had on Adak where it rained pretty constantly all day — although the intensity varied.

Last night, Jim and John went out, but turned the wrong direction — easy to do when you first arrive here — and stumbled on a Common Sandpiper in a slough next to the airport! It was still here this morning, although I couldn’t get photos.

Up at Contractors’ Camp marsh, they heard, and later saw, a Wood Sandpiper. We went there later in the day and heard it call, but couldn’t find it.

We had an immature gull up at Clam Lagoon which we could not identify. We sent photos to several birders who are much better than us at identifying gulls. We will post the photos and identification once we get it figured out.

The Hawfinch and flock of Bramblings continue to visit the Thrush Feeder, and 6 more Bramblings are visiting the Blue Building Feeder. The Brambling numbers are way down. We are not seeing the large flocks as we drive around. The ones that are still here are mostly at feeders now.

At the Seawall, I spotted a flock of about 20 shorebirds flying, but they were too far away to identify. They flew back into the Seawall down towards the Breaches, but when we got back down there, I couldn’t find any. Probably Turnstones or Sanderlings. Maybe we will find them tomorrow.

The strong westerly winds are slated to continue until Saturday morning. They brought in a couple of sandpipers already. Keep em coming…

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Temp in the 40s, partly sunny, Wind W 15 to 30 mph.

No new birds today.

It is spring, so here are some flowers.

Arctic Daisies, Adak, May 21, 2017

Dandelions — they grow everywhere, Adak, May 21, 2017

The fish-processing ship was active today and we saw at least 4 Laysan Albatrosses out there, but no other stiff-wings.

There are still 20 or so Bramblings and 1 Hawfinch coming to the Thrush Feeder and 3 Bramblings at the Blue Building Feeder.

We also had another Hawfinch in town, but he has not yet shown up at a feeder.

The west wind today made Kuluk Bay and Sitkin Sound in the lee, so they were relatively calm. Without waves crashing over it, Goose Rocks provided a safe haven to rest.

Goose Rocks festooned with gulls, eider, and cormorants, May 21, 2017

All of the other birders left today, but three more arrived. So we will still have the benefit of extra eyes and ears this week.

Lastly, all of the deteriorating buildings here have created a new art form — broken-window-art. A few samples…

Raptor swooping in…

Kingfisher? Pileated?

Keep those west winds blowing!

Saturday, May 20,2017.

Temp in the 40s, sunny and calm at dawn, overcast and wind West at 15-25 mph by evening. No rain.

Okay, let’s get it over with…

Mandatory Bald Eagle head shot, Adak, May 20,2017.

The bay was calm this morning, making it easier to spot alcids at a distance. We picked up both puffins and saw a lot of Ancient Murrelets and Common Murres.

Keith’s group went out on the Puk-Uk this morning and, although they did not see large numbers of birds, they did get the target species — Whiskered and Crested auklets — and more.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Bar-tailed Godwit flock had dwindled to four. Today there were only two. They are moving on.

The Bramblings are also moving on. We are seeing far fewer numbers the past two days. However, there are still about 20 at the Thrush Feeder, as well as the Hawfinch.

My Yellow Wagtail perch experiment has to pay off, but as I walked out there today, they flew out and back towards Barb, who saw them briefly. Still no photos!

At the Seawall, John pointed out a Yellow-billed Loon to us — still too far for photos. He had an Arctic Loon yesterday, but we did not see it today.

A pair of Snow Buntings are frequenting the Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder.

Snow Bunting, Sandy Cove Bluffs Rock Feeder, , May 20,2017.

We have not seen the injured Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds today, but there was a healthy pair there as well as a pair on Lake Ronnie.

Tufted Ducks, Airport Ponds, May 20,2017.

The fish-processing ship was processing today, attracting a large flock of gulls, but no pelagics. Also, this ship is anchored farther out in the bay, making identifying odd gulls almost impossible.

Our trip list is 66 — two over our average — after less than a week and within shooting range of our May high of 76.

The wind has shifted to the west and is supposed to increase in speed and become southwest with rain the next few days. Ideal for dropping Asian birds on us.

Our fingers are crossed…

Friday, May 19, 2017

More dickey birds…

Temp in the 40s, Partly sunny!, Wind N 10-15 mph.

Did we mention the earthquakes? We had one on Monday morning about 3:30 and another around 9:30 PM last night. Now these are not building-tumbling temblors. These are more three-shakes-and-done. They are most noticeable when lying in bed, as the bed rocks a little.

Also yesterday, we saw an injured male Tufted Duck at the Airport Ponds. Its left wing appeared to be damaged somehow. It could not lift it to flap it. We did not see it today.

The Yellow Wagtails up at the marsh have been frustrating me no end! I have been trying to get a photo, but every time I approach the area, they see me before I see them and they take off. They hide in the reeds and are impossible to see. So I am trying a new tactic. I went out and placed some sticks (pieces of boards) into the marsh where they hang out and hope they will perch on them (sure!). This was suggested by Keith’s group.

As we were driving out of the marsh (after placing the sticks) we got a call from Keith’s group that they had a Hawfinch at the Thrush Feeder (less than a quarter-mile from where we were). John’s group was also just leaving the marsh, so we all arrived shortly and the Hawfinch flew in, then out, then in, etc. affording everyone good views and photo-ops.

Hawfinch, Thrush Feeder (near Navfac Creek), May 19, 2017.

That now makes six Asian passerine species! Wow!

Over at Haven Lake, we found a good bird — American Wigeon. All wigeon out here are presumed Eurasian until proven otherwise. Americans occur here every year, but in very low numbers.

We went up to the Blue Buildings to try for the Eye-browed Thrush. While walking around looking for it (we did not see it) I found a pair of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches courting. While one just sat nearby (I assume the Female), the other cocked his tail and fluttered his wings, trying to impress.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch courting, May 19, 2017

The fish-processing ship left last night, but what appears to be another is now anchored in Kuluk Bay. Although a fishing boat tied up to them this morning, we have not seen any signs of fish-processing going on and the gulls are ignoring it.

More and more Bramblings are finding our feeders. Here are some more photos.

Bramblings at a “feeder”, Adak, May 19, 2017

Bramblings, Adak, May 19, 2017

Brambling, Adak, May 19, 2017

Just as the Yellow Wagtail is frustrating me photo-wise, Barb is getting just as frustrated not being able to see the Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail since we first found them. Each day since, other groups have seen one or the other or both, but every time we stop by, they are nowhere to be found! This afternoon, we made a concerted effort that only resulted in my seeing the wagtail fly across the creek and out-of-sight over the bluff (Barb didn’t see it!) and Barb getting a brief glimpse of the bunting before it vanished into the weeds. So, still frustrated…

The Puk-Uk arrives tonight and Keith’s group will be going out for auklets tomorrow. Then, on Sunday, the boat leaves for Attu.

Our trip list is 62.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Temp in the 40s, Overcast, but higher ceiling than recent days, making it brighter, NNE wind 10-15 mph, no rain!

Both wagtails were seen again today. It is unclear whether we have one wandering Eye-browed Thrush or as many as three! One has been seen the past two days up at the Blue Building Feeder at the northwest corner of Clam Lagoon and today one was found hanging around one of the old buildings at Contractors’ Camp Marsh.

Red-necked Grebes moved in last night, with 12 off the Seawall. The tern numbers (Arctic and Aleutian) also jumped overnight with dozens of them coursing over Clam Lagoon and the Seawall.

The fish-processing ship stopped processing yesterday afternoon and all of the pelagics left. A small fishing boat came in late this morning and the processing started up again. But no pelagics showed up today. However, a Pomarine Jaeger joined the feeding frenzy (spotted by Stefan, and later photographed — poorly — by me). Since the ship was a half-mile offshore, I set my camera up and started snapping pictures of the flock of birds, in hopes of picking out something interesting when I downloaded them. It worked. I found a Glaucous Gull in several of the photos. That plus the jaeger brings our trip list up to 60.

Glaucous Gull with Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 18, 2017.The tour groups left today, as did the Anchorage/California group and Andrew from the Anchorage group. John Puschok arrived today with three birders in preparation for their Attu trip. Their boat — the Puk-Uk — is expected to arrive tomorrow night, giving the Anchorage group a chance to go out and see the Whiskered (and other) Auklets.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Temp in the 40s, overcast, foggy at times, occasional drizzle, Wind 15-25 NW.

Bramblings have started to show up at the feeders in town, but they seem not to linger. This is in contrast to our previous records of one or two birds finding a feeder and then staying there to feed and roost.

The Bramblings are everywhere. One observer today tallied 166! There are many more. There are records of such fallouts on the Western Aleutians, but this is the first such recorded event for the Central Aleutians. It is very enjoyable.

Brambling, Adak, May 17, 2017

The Rustic Bunting and White Wagtail were seen again today in Sweeper Channel!

Across from the High School Spruces, a Semipalmated Plover was trying to lure us away doing the “broken wing” act.

Semipalmated Plover doing the “broken wing” act, May 17, 2017

The fish processing ship in Kuluk Bay continues to attract large pelagics. Today, in addition to many Laysan Albatross, there were several Black-footed Albatross. But still too far for good photos.

The Bar-tailed Godwits continue on Landing Lights Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Landing Lights Beach, May 17, 2017

At Lake Andrew, we had two Common Loons.

Common Loon, Lake Andrew, May 17, 2017

We learned late today, that there was a Yellow-billed Loon on the eastern side of Lake Andrew (in easy photo distance) since Monday! We had only gotten over there once so far this trip and it was fogged in. Yellow-billed is the one loon we have seen several times out here that has never been within photo range. Aargh!!!

There was a pair of Tufted Ducks on Lake Ronnie and several Black Oystercatchers at several locations. The only other shorebird of note was a Wandering Tattler at Clam Lagoon.

One of the other groups had a Short-eared Owl.

We ended today with a call from Aaron that there were a Herring Gull and a Vega Gull at Clam Lagoon. Vega Gull is an Asian subspecies of Herring Gull. We have seen the Vega variety before, but not the “American” Herring Gull out here.

So we headed up there and got to see the Herring, but the Vega had flown off.

“American” Herring Gull, Clam Lagoon, May 17, 2017

Our trip list is 58.

Many of the birders here are leaving tomorrow, but a few are staying until Sunday.

We will miss the extra eyes and ears.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Second time’s the charm, almost…

Temp in the 40s, W wind 10-25 mph, overcast, sporadic rain.

The feeders have still not attracted much, although a few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches have found a few of them. We added a lot of common — and one not-so-common — Adak migrants today, raising our trip list to 52.

There was nothing unusual at Sweeper Cove or Sweeper Creek. We tried for the Eye-browed Thrush again, but no luck. The Tufted Duck count at the Airport Ponds is up to 3. A quick run around Contractors’ Camp Marsh yielded our first Red-necked Phalarope for the trip.

We spent all morning around town and nearby, checking a lot of places. We planned to go up to Contractor’s Camp Marsh after lunch with Stefan’s group and the guys from Anchorage. It s always better to do such a large area with extra eyes and ears.

We met up with them and while Barb stayed back at the truck, I walked out with the others. At the edge where the drier section met the wetter section, one of the guys spotted the Yellow Wagtails in the marsh. Of course, they disappeared into thicker vegetation before I could catch up to them! However, they soon took flight, and both Barb and I got views of them in the air. They circled around and returned to the same area, but disappeared again as quickly as before. They flew two more times, but Barb and I never got up-close-and-personal views. But, it was good enough for now. No photos…

I plan to try again in the next few days when the wind subsides a bit.

While we were there, we also had a number of Wilson’s and Common snipe, and four Pacific Golden-Plovers.

Pacific Golden-Plovers, Contractors’ Camp Marsh, May 16, 2017.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon and played leap-frog with Stefan. He got to the Blue Building Feeder before us and found the Eye-browed Thrush there. Of course, it flew away before we got there! So another miss.

Along the northern shore of Clam Lagoon, a gray Gyrfalcon flew by us headed for Stefan. We called him and his group also saw it.

At the northeastern corner, there was a feeding frenzy going on.

Glaucous-winged Gull feeding frenzy, Clam Lagoon, May 16, 2017.

We saw the usual suspects along the Seawall and east side of Clam Lagoon.

We had one Bar-tailed Godwit at Clam Lagoon and saw 16 others down on Landing Lights Beach.

It was getting late, so we headed back to town. By the way, we have been running into several flocks of Bramblings up and down Bayshore Drive, as far north as Contactors’ Camp Marsh. However, they have been very flighty and haven’t hung around for photo-ops.

We checked the Seal drive feeder — nothing — and as we drove out of that area, Barb drove up one of the nearby loops that has a spruce tree at one of the abandoned houses. We didn’t see anything there, but as we rounded the bend, a flock of Bramblings flew out. This time however — maybe it was the pouring rain — they were a little more cooperative.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

11 of the 30+ Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Bramblings, Adak, May 16, 2017.

Brambling bathing (in the rain no less!), Adak, May 16, 2017.

See? We weren’t making this up!

In addition to the 52 species we have seen so far, the other groups have also had Eye-browed Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, Common Redpoll, Black Oystercatcher, and maybe a few others.

The winds are supposed to switch back to a more northerly direction the next few days. Not the best scenario.

Regardless, we will be out there looking…

Monday, May 15, 2017

You win some, you lose some.

Temp in the 40s, overcast, rain and drizzle much of the day, some sun late in the day, Wind 15-30, NW.

We started out on our usual routine of checking feeders, Sweeper Cove and Channel.

We had just put out seed yesterday, so except for Rosy-Finch and Snow Bunting at the Sandy Cove Bluffs feeder, there was no action. At Sweeper Cove, we had our first Ancient Murrelet of the trip.

As we were driving up Bayshore Drive, we spotted the Brambling flock — but again, non-cooperative. We then got a call from Stefan that he had found an Eye-browed Thrush at the High School Spruces. We (and the other groups nearby) headed over there. The bird was not being terribly cooperative, and since we have seen them previously on Adak, we headed out to look for other stuff while the other groups tried to get better looks at the thrush. They eventually all got satisfactory views. We tried later in the day, but did not see it.

There is a fish-processing ship anchored in Kuluk Bay and it has attracted Laysan Albatross and Fulmars. These birds are coming in much closer to shore than normal, providing nice views through a scope, but not very good photos. I took some anyway…

Three Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gull, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

Laysan Albatross and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Kuluk Bay, May 15, 2017.

We headed north. At the Navfac Creek overlook, there was a flock of 150+ Black Scoters.

We headed up to Clam Lagoon. The tide was in as we started around, so we headed over to the Seawall. There, we had 5 Pacific Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, and the usual sea ducks and cormorants.

We came back around Clam Lagoon. The tide was starting to recede and one Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding on the flats. As we were leaving the lagoon, we ran into Stefan who told us they had 14 godwits down on Navfac Creek Beach. He also told us Aaron had been trying to reach us because he had found two — not one, but TWO! — Yellow Wagtails at Contractor’s Camp Marsh! Our nemesis birds on Adak are wagtails. Both yellow and white have occurred on the island while we have been here, but we have always missed them.

So, although the birds had been seen several hours ago — and passerines tend not to stick around Adak unless at a feeder — we headed down to the marsh to look for them. By this time the wind had increased to 25-30 MPH and it was drizzling. We drove and walked around the area where they had been seen, but no luck.

So we continued south, tried briefly for the thrush, and then did Sweeper Creek and Channel. We drove up the channel, watching and listening to the resident Rock Sandpipers. At the place where the road ends,we stopped as usual and scanned the streamsides. No sooner had we stopped than Barb yelled “White Wagtail!”

Sure enough, a White Wagtail was actively feeding across the creek along the edge of the vegetation. So we didn’t get the Yellows, but this was nice compensation. We quickly called the other groups and they all started heading our way.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

White Wagtail, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

As I was taking photos of the wagtail, I turned away for a second and lost sight of him. I put up my binos and scanned the streamside and spotted a little-brown-job with a distinctively-marked head pattern. I said to myself, “I’ve never seen one of those before!” and quickly alerted Barb to it as I started taking photos of this new bird. It turned out to be a Rustic Bunting. Readers of our previous blogs may remember that we had a Rustic Bunting in September 2014. However, that was a fall-plumaged bird, not striking like this guy. Also, that sighting lasted ten seconds at most and afforded no photo opportunity.

This was  MUCH nicer.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

Rustic Bunting, Sweeper Channel, May 15, 2017.

The wagtail and bunting worked their way down the channel towards Sweeper Cove. By the time the other birders arrived, the wagtail was gone, but the bunting was still visible. Most of them got good views, but the bird was very active and was hard to pin down. As they were watching the bunting, I walked down to the Sweeper Estuary (as I call it), and there was the wagtail. I radioed the others, and they came down and many of them saw it before it took off, heading towards the airport. We found out later that Stefan and his group — who were out of range when we found these birds — later found the wagtail in the estuary. But not the bunting.

Although we had seen White Wagtails in Europe last year, this was a North American bird for us. And the Bunting was certainly a more enjoyable sighting than our first one. The nice looks at albatrosses was also very rewarding.

Not a bad day.


So far, there have been 5 species of Asian passerines. Unheard of! Two or three is what we usually expect. There had been very strong southwest winds for several days before our arrival, and we suspect that is what brought all of these birds here. Who knows what else lurks out there as I write this…

I mentioned yesterday that there were 18 birders out here. That might be a record. In any case, there’s High Lonesome, led by Stefan, with Joe and Susan; Wilderness, led by Aaron, with Kris, Steve, Luann, and Mike; 4 from Anchorage, Keith, Eric, Enric, and Andrew; and a group of 6 from Anchorage and California, Sue, Frank, Mark, Janet, and Susan — yes, there are three Sues!

Some of them are only staying until Thursday.  They certainly lucked out on the right week so far.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We started this trip on a bad note. Our limo driver overslept! Instead of picking us up at 2:45 am, he didn’t arrive until 3:30. With many apologies, he put the pedal-to-the-metal and got us to the airport at 4:30 for a 5 am flight. Fortunately, we had TSA PreCheck, so we sailed through security and arrived at the gate just as the last passengers were boarding. Whew!

We got to Chicago on time and the flight from there to Anchorage arrived a little early. We got the car, checked in at the motel and headed out to shop. On the way, we stopped at Spenard Crossing, having heard that a pair of Redheads were there. That would be a state bird for us. We got them.

Redhead, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Also there, Barb spied a Mew Gull nesting 20 feet up in a spruce tree! We still are not accustomed to seeing gulls and shorebirds up in trees…

Mew Gull on nest, Spenard Crossing, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We got our shopping done, got supper, and crashed for the night.

Sunday morning, we headed up to Arctic Valley (as usual). Keith Confer, an Anchorage resident — a birder going out to Adak — had scouted the area out for Willow Ptarmigan — one of our nemesis birds. He had heard some up there and some friends of his had flushed some in recent days. So I walked up the trail and played the call and got a response! The bird was calling from a willow thicket that I could not get very near, as there were several inches of fresh snow and walking off-trail was treacherous. The bird did not call again and did not show itself. So my sum experience with Willow Ptarmigans at this point is finding feathers a couple of trips back and now hearing one. So I guess that makes it two-thirds of a lifer…

Although we didn’t see the ptarmigan, we did see a few of the regular species up there.

A very angry-looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, , Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

A fairly cooperative Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

And plenty of Robins.

American Robin, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Robins are plentiful in Anchorage, but I just hadn’t taken the time to photograph one before.

We also saw several Snowshoe Hares — already in their summer coats.

Snowshoe Hare, Arctic Valley, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

We birded several other locations. There was a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese at Potter’s Marsh — a new Alaska Mainland bird for us — and finally ended up at Lake Hood. There we found a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and the friendly Red-throated Loon was back.

Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

Red-throated Loon, Lake Hood, Anchorage, May 14, 2017

On to Adak. Our flight left about a half-hour late.

We arrived, got to our house, and started unpacking. We go a call from Aaron Lang that there was a flock of about 30 Brambling up near where Isaac used to live! We had never seen more than one or two Brambling at a time out here and the maximum we had ever seen during our two-week stays was about six!

We finished unpacking, loaded up the truck with our birding gear and headed out. We set birdseed out at several of the usual locations. We had a pair of Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds. We did a quick run up to Clam Lagoon and Shotgun Lake. We didn’t see anything obviously different, so we headed back down to look for the Bramblings.

As we dove through the area, Stefan, from Hi-Lonesome Bird Tours was also looking. He went one way, we another. He called us shortly after we split up to say he had found them. We went to his location and watched as a large flock of Bramblings worked their way up the roadside and finally disappeared up a hillside. I was unable to get photos, as they stayed just far enough ahead and kept moving. Maybe tomorrow. It was still pretty exciting.

There are 18 other birders here besides us. Lots of eyes and ears!

It is midnight here so I am signing off and will fill you in with the details of the other groups here tomorrow.